07/31/06 — Midnight Madness - Cougars' Jackson hopes hard work in weight room pays dividends

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Midnight Madness - Cougars' Jackson hopes hard work in weight room pays dividends

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on July 31, 2006 2:04 PM

On the heels of "our best summer yet," according to Goldsboro head coach Maurice Jackson, the Cougars officially opened up the 2006 football campaign with a Midnight Madness practice this morning.

Forty-five players, including both the junior varsity and varsity squads, participated as Jackson and his assistants led the team in position-specific drills during the two-hour practice.

Jackson, entering his fourth season at the helm of the 2-A program, was pleased with the first official practice but seemed even more satisfied with his teams' summer work outs in the weight room.

"We go back in the offseason and review all the tapes from last year. We realized that we were simply not as strong as the other teams," Jackson said. "We dedicated ourselves and the guys took it upon themselves to work out five times a week instead of three. It wasn't anything strenuous, just lifting weights.

"We're just out with a new attitude that we don't want to be pushed around."

With increased dedication to the offseason strength and conditioning program, Jackson believes the team will be more prepared for the rigors of a non-conference schedule which features five 3-A opponents.

"The good thing was we had a lot of people out this summer. We don't have to do as much teaching this year as we've had to do in the past," he said. "We're glad to see the numbers that we've got. We just want to make sure we get the young guys who haven't played on the varsity level used to Friday nights as fast as possible."

For the players, putting on a helmet and cleats for the late-night exercise proved to be a valuable experience, which they hope will set the tone for a successful season.

"You learn about the people you are playing with. That's what this is about basically," said senior lineman Marcus Uzzell. "You come out and practice and learn how people are in certain situations. It tests your will-power to come out here and work out in the middle of the night. It's all about getting in shape."

Midnight Madness served more than just the purpose of learning the Xs and Os of football as the team slept in the fieldhouse overnight before heading home to rest up for Tuesday's practice.

"We want the guys to be excited about the program, and doing this is something different," Jackson said. "We turn it into a bonding experience. We spend the night in the fieldhouse and do some bonding activities then get up and go home in the morning."

The Cougars return approximately four starters on both sides of the ball, including leading rusher Treme Boone and leading tackler Andrew Phifer -- both juniors. Goldsboro, which finished 4-8 in 2005, opens up the season at home on Aug. 18 against perennial power Rocky Mount in an endowment contest.